On TV: Bored To Death
Jonathan Ames created his short-essay and subsequent HBO series Bored To Death on an admittedly self-indulgent whim: to fulfill his fantasy of moonlighting as a Raymond Chandler-esque detective. The series debuts this Sunday and stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames's not-even-veiled surrogate who traverses the Brooklyn borough for clues in minimal stakes, Craigslist-enlisted mysteries. The pilot is well-executed and Schwartzman plays what he plays best - a neurotic hipster simultaneously verging on self-discovery and breakdown - but you can't help but curse Jonathan Ames for failing to dream up intrigue, pressure or even a few jokes for his premium cable brand of wish fulfillment.
We meet Schwartzman's character, conveniently named Jonathan Ames, as he recovers from a break-up with his favorite vices: white wine (pensively sipped from mugs for maximum quirk-quotient), weed and writer's block. To break up the monotony of these three-step days, he posts a brief Craigslist ad and is soon meditatively searching the town via subway for a girl reported missing by her spacey sister.
The premise seems rife for comic situations to arise out of Ames's unsophisticated investigation service, his mopey cartoonist friend (Zach Galifianakis) and his always high, magazine publisher/sometimes boss (Ted Danson) but Ames is detached and the pilot unfolds too slowly for any such situation to materialize.
Galifianakis promises the jolt of odd humor that Bored To Death deserves but is too suffocated by the hipster-thinky dialogue in the pilot to deliver. When Ray reveals that he sketched Ames as a therapist for an illustration on his website, Ames laments, "Why couldn't you have made me a hero?" Ray responds quite earnestly, "Therapists are heros. They're the heroes of listening."
Without a due date for his second novel or a time limit on his mystery case in sight, Ames flops haphazardly around the city with his trusty Chandler novel in pocket at all times. Even in one faintly climactic scene when Ames finds himself in a dingy hotel room with a bound and gagged woman and an underwear-clad mad man wielding a lighter, you can't help but shrug your shoulders and wonder what's playing on the other channel.
With future guest stars Kristin Wiig, Parker Posey, Bebe Neuwirth, Oliver Platt and Patton Oswalt, there is some faith that this series might find its post-pilot footing. But for now, the most you can expect out of Bored To Death is a half hour of ruminative Jason Schwartzman dialogue and a significant contact high.